When conducting market analysis and engaging in conversations with a number of technology and AI experts and stakeholders, AIBC News came across a newly launched app and met with founder Nick Scerri. He explained how a well-defined technology and AI implementation strategy was the linchpin for constructing the success of ‘Subscribed’, his new start up.
In an exclusive interview, AIBC News gives an insight into a series of trends that Scerri adopted for the implementation of this app.
LH: What components of artificial intelligence and technology goes into making the app work?
Nick Scerri: Mobile apps users today have high expectations when it comes to user experience due to the bar set by the apps built by unicorn tech companies. Any lesser experience is considered inadequate and can easily score low reviews. For Subscribed to achieve a high level of user experience and feature set, a wide spectrum of technologies are employed. Although the full list is too long to mention, it is easiest to divide the key technologies into the frontend (consisting mainly of the app itself and what users interact with) and backend services (handling all the processing and core business logic) which enable the app to deliver real-time customised notifications and personalised feeds to our users.
LH: The majority of services today are securely hosted on the cloud? How does it work?
Nick Scerri: The cloud enables us to scale to hundreds of thousands and potentially millions of users with ease. Security and data privacy are essential for an app to be trusted, and that is why aside from using the correct technologies, the best practices and secure by-design mindset must be adopted. Our data stores are also a key component within our architecture. The data we harness allows us to create a customised experience for our users by harnessing the power of AI. Built on solid foundations, this enables us to gather insights over time which we use to take data-driven decisions. I strongly believe in the saying that one cannot control anything that cannot be measured”, and that is why for an young startup like Subscribed it is essential to gather valuable metrics which will enable the app to improve iteratively. Finally, to ensure a reliable and fault-tolerant solution, multiple tools for real-time monitoring and fault-recovery mechanisms were utilised.
LH: We are meeting to talk a bit about your new start up ‘Subscribed’. How would you describe it?
Nick Scerri: ‘Subscribed’ is a new mobile app that keeps you updated with the latest news. At the moment it is tailored for Maltese users. It is a unique app because it allows you to filter news based on the categories that interest you. For example, if you’re interested in sports and local politics, you can choose to get updates from those categories only. Through mobile notifications, users can remain informed and be the first to know what is happening around them. The idea behind Subscribed is to save users the time to search various websites and social media for the latest news and instead deliver it to them through the app. Useful features are available such as notification settings, where you can control the frequency of notifications based on your personal preferences. Additionally, it has a “quiet hours” feature, allowing users to choose not to receive notifications during certain times and then receive a summary of the news later.
LH: What inspired you to create this app?
Nick Scerri: During the COVID pandemic, there was a lot of uncertainty and misinformation. I noticed that many people were visiting various websites and social media platforms to be the first to know about the latest updates, especially as new cases and deaths were reported due to the virus. That was the moment when the idea struck me that the news I was interested in (at that time, the number of cases) could be delivered to me instead of me having to search for it. Although the pandemic has passed, the concept still applies to daily news.
LH: Did you always know you wanted to enter the technology sector?
Nick Scerri: From a young age, my favorite subjects were mathematics and science. In my free time, I used to tinker with mechanical objects to understand how they were built and how they worked. Eventually this lead me to build simple robots that could navigate the ground. I decided to enter the world of computing and software because of the limitless opportunities it offers.
LH: What inspired you to enter the field of engineering and technology?
Nick Scerri: Elon Musk has been a significant influence for me, and what amazes me the most is how one person can build such large companies and be involved in the success of many others. He is a great source of inspiration in both business and personal aspects, as there’s so much one can learn from him.
LH: What were the biggest challenges you faced?
Nick Scerri: Anyone can have an idea for a new product, but implementing that idea in a practical way is a significant hurdle that many people struggle with. Another challenge is deciding which features to prioritise. In a start up, things need to remain dynamic and I believe that you can focus and make a few key decisions that have a big impact to increase your chance of success.
LH: What are your plans going forward?
Nick Scerri: I have a long-term vision for where I want the App to go. I plan to continue adding features based on user feedback and expand the news categories that users can subscribe to. More sources of news will be introduced based on user performance. I eventually also plan plan to expand beyond our borders and work to make the app’s functionality even better.
LH: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Nick Scerri: In my free time, I enjoy playing almost any kind of sport, and right now, I’m focusing on paddle tennis. I never stop learning something new, especially in the fields of technology and business. To unwind, I often pick up the guitar and sing a bit with friends. I also enjoy spending time with my family, where I find the most support and love, as well as with my friends, who are an important part of my life.
Nicholas Scerri spoke with AIBC. He is the founder of Subscribed. He is a software engineer based in Malta and considered to be a tech guru. He began his academic journey at the University of Malta, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering, and then continued his studies at Imperial College London, where he completed a Master’s degree in the field of tech communication and signal processing.